shit art positive Back to homepage


new book by Matthew Bown


Hardback in dustjacket, size 29 x 24 x 4 cm, 272 pages of shit in colour on fine arctic paper, weight 2.9 kg. Publication: August 15, 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-8383501-0-9. Price: £ 65.

The Absolute Mixture: Shit Art Positive is the first book-length study devoted to the scatological in art and breaks substantial new ground. It analyses excremental art as an extension of the avant-garde project of dismantling the separation between art and life. It is introduced by a survey from medieval times; the main focus, however, is on twentieth-century and contemporary art.
The Absolute Mixture is organised chronologically but also by themes; numerous individual artists and their works are also considered at length. The narrative is shaped by multiple interweaving ‘excremental discourses’, including (but not limited to) disgust theory (beginning in eighteenth-century Germany); Freudian-Lacanian-Kristevan philosophy-cum-psychoanalysis; gestures of rebellion from Diogenes to Sloterdijk’s kynicism; and contemporary notions of ecologically-sound production and recycling. The text is accompanied by 200 illustrations.


Matthew Bown is a London-, Moscow- and Berlin-based art-dealer and writer. In 2015, he gave the keynote speech at the annual conference of the International Association of Art Historians (AICA). He has published extensively on Russian art, including books for Yale University Press and Phaidon Press. He writes art criticism for the Times Literary Supplement.


“She [Rrose Sélavy] is embarrassed to tell him this, but his penis is very like some kind of dog’s shit that litters the pavements.”
(Jeanine Chasseguet-Smirgel, Creativity and Perversion)


Excerpts: Gilbert and George described their ideal shit colour as “George Michael Arse Brown”, which, whatever the precise shade, will have
been produced substantially by the pigment stercobilin, which was first identified in 1932. (...) Clair noted the Nazi choice of brown as the “emblem of its absolute power” (and the description of the concentration camps by the Nazi elite as the “arsehole of the world” (“Arschloch der Welt”)). (...) John Berger connected Rembrandt’s palette explicitly and ecstatically with the shit gamut: “Its [shit’s] colors are burnished gold, dark brown, black: the colors of Rembrandt’s painting of Alexander the Great in his helmet.” (...) Mr Brown, in the film Reservoir Dogs, complains: “Yeah, but Mr. Brown, that’s a little too close to Mr. Shit.” The colour brown may be socially handicapped, but in an evolving economy of disgust it surely has substantial psycho-sexual potential. Carol Rama devoted a rhapsody to it: “[Brown is] the color of shit, which is the color I like best, (...) And when I use this color in my pictures it gives me the same pleasure as when I shit. Brown, like black, is a color I adore. I’d roll in brown.”

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